Republicans reject witnesses as impeachment trial kicks off with rules battle

Republicans reject witnesses as impeachment trial kicks off with rules battle”

After some last-minute tweaks on Tuesday, the proposed rules for President Donald Trump's impeachment trial now largely mirror the ones used for the trial of former President Bill Clinton.

What to watch for: Democrats are attempting to push the Senate to allow new witnesses and documents while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is aiming to move things along as quickly as possible.

But McConnell has been reticent to allowing new witnesses to testify during Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate. Pushing this decision to the end of the trial, when such evidence would be less useful, makes it more likely senators would opt not to seek additional evidence at all, the Democrats contended.

"Not a single [previous] president has categorically refused to co-operate with an impeachment investigation", she said.

The Senate Republican majority defeated a measure 47-53 offered by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to demand the White House turn over a trove of documents stemming from President Trump's conversations with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The first day of debate focused on rules mapped out by McConnell for the trial: three eight-hour days of arguments by the Democratic impeachment managers, and three days again for Trump's legal defense team.

Schiff made their importance explicit as he kicked off the debate over the resolution Tuesday afternoon. Democrats complained that that would push the trial into "the dead of night", and McConnell expanded the timeline after the GOP moderates voiced similar concerns.

Under McConnell's hastily revised set of procedures for the trial, there will be 48 hours of opening arguments - 24 hours for each side - over six days, easing off an earlier plan to keep them to two days each.

Per underlying Senate rules, upon which both resolutions were based, the senators have to submit those questions in writing.

After the senators' question period, Trump's trial will follow Clinton's format with debate over witnesses.

Clinton also provided more than 90,000 pages of documents and other information ahead of his trial, according to a Clinton White House response to a referral from the Office of Independent Counsel.

McConnell's initial resolution, released Monday, allowed the Democratic House managers 24 hours to argue their case across two session days. But the public had already heard from all three of those witnesses, as they had been interviewed by Starr's team.

The rare impeachment trial, unfolding in an election year, is testing whether Trump's actions towards Ukraine warrant removal at the same time that voters are forming their own verdict on his White House. Some Republican senators - including Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah - pushed McConnell to include a vote on witnesses and have signaled they will vote to hear at least some testimony. He is accused of withholding almost US$400-million in American military aid to Ukraine to press Kyiv into helping him take down Mr. Biden, and then stonewalling Congress's efforts to investigate.

Democrats want to call White House officials involved in withholding military aid, including chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and his adviser, Robert Blair, and budget official Michael Duffey; John Bolton, Mr. Trump's former national security adviser who is said to have been angry with the President's pressure campaign; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and former secretary of energy Rick Perry.

McConnell also spoke about the motion of dismissal which the Democrats voted on.

It would take two-thirds of senators to convict Mr. Trump and remove him from office.

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